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New Alliance Seeks to Accelerate Fashion Industry’s Climate Action

The organizers of two of the world’s most prestigious sustainability events are joining forces to turbocharge the fashion industry’s climate ambitions.

Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) announced Thursday a “new alliance” to bring together industry stakeholders to implement the “bold actions” needed to fulfill the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, which commits signatories such as Adidas, H&M, Gucci parent Kering and Zara owner Inditex to slash their emissions by half over the next decade and hit net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The collaboration, which will “activate” around their respective Global Fashion Summit (formerly the Copenhagen Fashion Summit) and Conference of Parties forums, will bring together relevant experts to share knowledge, discuss tools and forge additional partnerships, they said. Besides contributing to the Summit’s content, The UNFCC will also hold its annual Fashion Charter at the event. This collaboration will extend to future editions of the Global Fashion Summit as it expands beyond Copenhagen.

“GFA is striving to create impactful alliances that can accelerate the fashion industry’s transition to a net-zero reality,” GFA CEO Federica Marchionni said in a statement. “We are therefore thrilled to be collaborating with UNFCCC as its Fashion Charter is an essential tool to mobilize the necessary industry transformation. Through our collaboration, we hope to bring together core fashion stakeholders, foster pre-competitive collaboration and provide even deeper insights and guidance to advance progress.”

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The Summit aside, the two powerhouses will continue to work together to “elevate” publications such as GFA’s Fashion CEO Agenda, a tool-slash-“vision statement” that lists key priorities that executives must focus on to future-proof both their business interests and those of the planet. Global Fashion Agenda will also participate in Fashion Charter meetings during COP27 to raise awareness about the industry’s biggest issues and priorities while extracting commitments from leaders to “drive change within social, environmental and circular dimensions.”

“We are excited for this opportunity to reinforce our collaboration with the Global Fashion Agenda,” said Niclas Svenningsen, climate action manager at UNFCCC. “The climate crisis is today the paramount issue for the fashion sector to address. While the Fashion Charter brings together a wide range of stakeholders to work collaboratively on solutions, the Global Fashion [Summit] is an important venue for broader sustainability discussions in the fashion sector. We see many opportunities for further strengthening and highlighting both the sustainability and the climate work through this collaboration.”

According to a 2020 study by Global Fashion Agenda and McKinsey & Company, if no further action is taken over the next decade “beyond measures already in place,” the industry’s carbon emissions will likely swell by roughly 2.7 billion metric tons a year by 2030, accounting for an annual volume growth rate of 2.7 percent and expanding beyond the global warming limit required to align with the Paris Agreement.

A recent report by environmental group Stand.earth called fossil fuels the “elephant in the room” that brands and retailers don’t like to talk about.

The “runway to 2030” is getting shorter every day, yet fashion supply chains are making glacial efforts to decarbonize, Muhannad Malas, senior climate campaigner at Stand.earth, told Sourcing Journal last year. “It’s quite troubling to see the persistent inaction in the sector,” he said. “We’re less than eight-and-a-half years away from 2030. And we continue to see companies putting out more promises and making commitments, but not really backing up their commitments with action.”

Malas, reacting to the GFA and UNFCCC announcement, said that the partnership needs to focus on facilitating “effective collaboration” within the sector to transition to renewable energy.

“As one of the biggest climate polluters globally, the urgency for action from fashion brands cannot be understated,” he said. “We hope that this new alliance will help accelerate fashion companies’ transition to renewable energy and materials throughout their supply chains by the end of the decade. The new alliance should also encourage increased transparency in the sector to help address greenwashing and prevent false solutions that may exacerbate climate impacts or the burden on racialized communities who are already experiencing the brunt of pollution from the extraction and use of fossil fuels, and fashion’s waste.”

In November, the Apparel Impact Institute (Aii) and the World Resources Institute published a paper that pegged several “interventions” or “levers” that can drive more than 60 percent of the necessary reductions to limit global temperature increases, including maximizing material efficiency, scaling sustainable materials and practices, improving energy efficiency, accelerating the development of “next generation” materials, transitioning to renewable electricity and eliminating coal in manufacturing.

“The reality is we are not set to meet targets currently if we don’t triple down, quadruple down and rapidly accelerate the work,” Lewis Perkins, president of Aii, which is building a $250 million Fashion Climate Fund, previously told Sourcing Journal. “Scaling to clean energy is not a new innovation; it just needs to systemically happen. The hard part is not so much that we don’t know what to do, it’s that we need to increase the rate at which we’re doing it.”